What led you/your family to OC?
My family started homeschooling me after about 45 days of first grade in public school. Of course, I was only vaguely aware of their decision-making process at the time, but my understanding is that I wasn’t getting the support I needed in public school, so they decided to switch to homeschooling. They were of course very aware of the need to find a good, supportive community to make it a healthy and viable choice for me and pretty quickly found OC (I think I was 7 or 8 at the time).
At what age did you start at OC? What programs were you involved in?
7 or 8. I have only vague memories of my first years at OC, when it was in its previous location in Bryn Mawr attached to Peter and Susan’s house (OC Co-Founders). After OC moved to Edgmont, I joined the Tuesday Tutorial group and pretty much stuck with that during my whole time at OC. I branched out a bit and did some theater programs and some swing dancing, but Tuesday Tutorial was my bread and butter.
What favorite memories of OC would you like to share?
One of the first is getting snowed in and having to spend the night there. That was pretty fun and exciting as an 8-year-old. Good memories from Tuesday Tutorial are too many to count — I feel like every week the conversations were vibrant and engaging, the people were terrific, and the space was just so beautiful to spend time in. Comprehensive projects were always a hit. (Do you still do those? [Ed: YES!]) I used to love doing mine on really niche historical subjects like the Dutch East India Company, and trying my darndest to make it fun and engaging. Which mostly worked, except I’m told my presentations always ran too long. Ah well, you can’t please everyone. Another good memory is of the couches in the Tutorial room. Man, those couches were really, really comfortable. I cannot say enough good things about the couches.
What have you been up to since leaving OC?
So much has happened since then. Among other things, I went to college, lived abroad for a few months at a time in Kyrgyzstan and India, and started writing a novel, which I’m still working on at the moment (halfway through the first draft, and no, it’s not impossible! If you’ve got a story in your head, go write it!). Right now, my day job is working for a small NGO that advocates for local economic resilience as a tool to resist corporate power worldwide—I keep their website running, write articles for them, and produce a podcast, among other things. I’m living in the beautiful Hudson Valley in upstate New York with my partner and a pet rabbit, and taking every day as it comes. I truly can’t complain.
How did OC impact you? What did you find useful?
It certainly got me interested in theater, which ended up being a part of my life throughout high school and into college. In many ways, though, I think the biggest impact OC had on me was in bringing me out of my shell and helping me become a more compassionate and empathetic person. I was always very bookish and awkward—probably even more so during my OC years than I am now—and more interested in spending time alone with an encyclopedia than understanding other people. OC was part of the process of changing that, which essentially defined my teenage years as far as I was concerned. Not that there’s anything wrong with spending time alone with a good book, but connecting with people on a deep level and figuring out how to apply that empathy as a yardstick for how you live your life is not something you can understand without experiencing it. So I guess I’d say OC helped me go from being an introvert to being an ”introvert-with-an-asterisk,” if that makes any sense.
What would you have changed about OC?
That’s a tough one. It’s been nearly ten years since I was in an OC program, so my memories of my time there are not so much of specific things that I would be capable of critiquing or wishing were different, but of the general atmosphere and the feeling of being there—which was perfection. I’m honestly really nostalgic about the whole experience. I don’t know that I would have changed a thing.